This is one of those "cut the crap" moments that just kind of sneaks up on you, you know?
I have always been fascinated with how the far right uses terms, and how they create terms that enter the vernacular, despite the fact that they have no real meaning. One of the most notorious of these is the term"pro-life." If you really think about it, pro-choice people tend to be far more "pro-life" than the people who have adopted this term, and yet, even pro-choice activists use it without thinking about its lack of relevance to those people it supposedly describes.
The word "conservative" also fits this category. The people who use the word most tend to be anything but "conservative." But I plan an entire column on that, so I’ll save that.
One of the more disturbing terms to be coined in the last few years is this concept of "Islamofascism." All of a sudden, the far right started using this term to describe terrorists, and gosh, but it’s a powerful term, isn’t it? We hate fascism, so if we hate these people and they’re Muslim, then why not "Islamofascist," right?
The word has been adopted en masse by the far right, and I’m even catching its use occasionally in the "legitimate" press, as well.
Here are a few examples of its recent use:
Rush Limbaugh, April 15: "Let me finish this global warming riff, as it has to do with the theme I established in the previous half-hour. And that is, liberalism is the greatest threat this country faces, not Islamofascism, because if the liberals dominate and win, and are in power for four, eight years or more, they don’t take Islamofascism as a threat. And we know this because the Islamofascists are actually campaigning for the election of Democrats. Islamofascists from Ahmadinejad to al-Zawahiri, Oba — Osama bin Laden, whoever, are constantly issuing Democrat talking points.
In promoting his second semi-annual Islamofascist Awareness Week, Wingnut crank David Horowitz promoted it thusly: "The purpose of this week and the campaign leading up to it will be: 1) To highlight the genocidal agendas of the Islamofascist crusade; and 2) To make the public aware of the “soft jihad” — the domestic networks that fund and provide political support for the agendas of the jihad, including its armies of terror."
Investor’s Business Daily used the term in an editorial two days ago: "Pope Benedict XVI is a man of peace, but he and President Bush are both waging wars for which they’ve suffered unpopularity. Bush combats Islamofascism, while the pope’s enemy is moral relativism."
You get the idea. You’ve heard the term a million times over the last year or two. I know I have, and every time I hear it, my ears perk up, because the word simply doesn’t apply.
Here is a definition of fascism from The American Heritage Dictionary:
fas·cism (fāsh’ĭz’əm) n.
- often Fascism
- A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
- A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
- Oppressive, dictatorial control.
Read that a few times, and think about how that would apply to most terrorist groups in the Muslim world. The easy answer is, it really doesn’t. Yes, they are trying to use terrorism to get their point across, but if you look closely, they’re not suppressing the opposition; they are the opposition.
Think about this for a moment. When you read the above definition, who fits under that definition better; terrorists trying to being about change in the Middle East, or the dictators running the countries. Wait; I guess I gave you that one, huh? See, with very few exceptions, all of the countries that make up most of the Muslim world are run by authoritarians who put severe limits on the populace and put down anything that resembles democracy. They themselves are richer than Allah, and give their people just enough to keep them fed. If anyone are "Islamofascists," it’s the kings and princes and emirs in the Muslim world.
I think terrorism practiced by anyone is cowardly and wrong. But the fact of the matter is, these assholes perceive themselves as being "freedom fighters," attempting to get rid of those whom they see as their "oppressors." The reason they lash out against the West, including the United States, is because they see us as enablers of their "oppressors." It’s not because we support Israel; we supported Israel back before 1970, and they never attacked us then. The terrorism didn’t start toward us until we started supporting the more oppressive regimes in the Muslim world, and began greater meddling in their politics.
So, here’s the thing. The authoritarian regimes in the Middle East actually practice "fascism" to a great degree, based on the dictionary definition above. But fascism is evil; it’s what the Nazis practiced last century, wasn’t it? So, we can’t very well call our "friends" the Saudis "fascists," can we?
Are you starting to see why the right wing is so intent on making this "Islamofascism" term stick? Think hard because it’s very tricky.
If they call terrorists "Islamofascists," and do so successfully, then they can actually redefine the concept of "fascism" to something that is a bit less in line with their ideology. Now, I’m one of those who tends to reserve the term "fascist" for extremely obvious cases. For example, while a case can be made that the Bushies demonstrates certain tendencies, I tend to hold back on using the term "fascist." At the same time, they support many regimes, most notably the Saudis, that are fascist. Therefore, by labeling the terrorists, who are actually anti-fascist as "Islamofascists," they can effectively redefine the word, and make it meaningless for the future.
Basically, by redefining terrorists as "Islamofascists," they are effectively creating a situation in which fascism can be introduced in a country, and the population won’t recognize it. After all, if terrorists are "Islamofascists," then the Saudi government can’t possibly be "fascists," since they’re our allies, and we would never side with "fascists."
We really have to discredit this word. Call terrorists cowards, scumbags or anything you want, but don’t let the far right redefine "fascism" so that future generations won’t recognize it when someone tries to impose it on them.