Fantasy Fascists

If you’re as steamed as I am about Donald Rumsfeld’s remarks to the American Legion yesterday, see Keith Olbermann for a damn good rebuttal. [Update: Video at Crooks & Liars]

While I’m keyboarding this I’m listening to Keith Olbermann explain the new name for the Iraq misadventure — “The War We Didn’t Start.” Also on Countdown — Brian Williams interviewed the President, who still says we went to Iraq because of 9/11 — “fundamentalists” attacked us, he said. It cannot be true that the Iraq War is helping recruit new jihadists, according to Bush, because we were attacked by jihadists before we invaded Iraq. (Like there can’t be more jihadists now?) Bush also claims he never even thought about attacking Iraq until after 9/11, which contradicts what Paul O’Neill told Ron Suskind.

And how pathetic is it that Bush is refusing to take responsibility for a war the whole world knows he started? And which was utterly unnecessary?

In his speech Rumsfeld continued the “Islamo-fascism” theme being promoted by the White House lately. Katha Pollitt writes in the current issue of The Nation about the Bushies sudden fondness for the word fascism.

If you control the language, you control the debate. As the Bush Administration’s Middle Eastern policy sinks ever deeper into bloody incoherence, the “war on terror” has been getting a quiet linguistic makeover. It’s becoming the “war on Islamic fascism.” … The move away from “war on terrorism” arrives not a moment too soon for language fussbudgets who had problems with the idea of making war on a tactic. To say nothing of those who wondered why, if terrorism was the problem, invading Iraq was the solution. (From the President’s August 21 press conference: Q: “But what did Iraq have to do with September 11?” A: “Nothing.” Now he tells us!)

The term Islamo-fascism isn’t new, Pollitt writes, nor is it accurate. But it sure is useful.

“Islamo-fascism” looks like an analytic term, but really it’s an emotional one, intended to get us to think less and fear more. It presents the bewildering politics of the Muslim world as a simple matter of Us versus Them, with war to the end the only answer, as with Hitler. If you doubt that every other British Muslim under the age of 30 is ready to blow himself up for Allah, or that shredding the Constitution is the way to protect ourselves from suicide bombers, if you think that Hamas might be less popular if Palestinians were less miserable, you get cast as Neville Chamberlain, while Bush plays FDR. “Islamo-fascism” rescues the neocons from harsh verdicts on the invasion of Iraq (“cakewalk…roses…sweetmeats…Chalabi”) by reframing that ongoing debacle as a minor chapter in a much larger story of evil madmen who want to fly the green flag of Islam over the capitals of the West. Suddenly it’s just a detail that Saddam wasn’t connected with 9/11, had no WMDs, was not poised to attack the United States or Israel–he hated freedom, and that was enough. It doesn’t matter, either, that Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites seem less interested in uniting the umma than in murdering one another. With luck we’ll be so scared we won’t ask why anyone should listen to another word from people who were spectacularly wrong about the biggest politico-military initiative of the past thirty years, and their balding heads will continue to glow on our TV screens for many nights to come. On to Tehran!

RJ Eskow has a similar take on the fondness for fascism.

The term “Islamic fascism” is demonstrably inaccurate in describing the threat we face. It’s been ginned up to stifle any genuine debate about how best to defend ourselves, and for partisan political gain. But that’s not the worst of it: it also weakens us. It uses a false historical analogy to confuse us, leaving us less able to analyze and react to the genuine dangers around us. …

… IF [Islamic Fascism] is a propaganda creation in the classic sense of the term. Anyone with a grasp of history knows that “fascism” entails intense nationalism and collaboration with large corporations, both of which Islamists reject. They do practice intense control of individual behavior, which is hateful but not limited to fascist movements.

So why use the term? For one thing, it evokes our Second World War enemies. There was clarity of purpose in WWII – we all knew the enemy and were united in our intent. Opposing the allies’ military strategy was tantamount to undermining the war effort. And the President’s judgment was never questioned.

Lastly – and most importantly – the appeasement strategy of Neville Chamberlain has echoed down the years as one of history’s tragic mistakes. Calling Islamism “fascism” allows purveyors of a failed military strategy – most recently Donald Rumsfeld – to try hiding their ineptitude behind the charge that their critics are Chamberlains.

In short, it’s subliminal sucker bait.

Yesterday Donald Rumsfeld dangled plenty of sucker bait in front of the American Legion.

… 1919 was the beginning of a period where, over time, a very different set of views would come to dominate discourse and thinking in the west.

Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be appeased, then the carnage and destruction of then-recent memory of World War I might be avoided. It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis — the rise of fascism and Nazism — were ridiculed and ignored.

Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated — or that it was someone else’s problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace — even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear.

It was, as Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.

There was a strange innocence in views of the world. Someone recently recalled one U.S. Senator’s reaction in September 1939, upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland to start World War II. He exclaimed:

“Lord, if only I could have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided.”

And that Senator was a Republican.

“Can we truly afford to believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased?” Rumsfeld continues, without providing examples of anyone suggesting any such thing.

“There was clarity of purpose in WWII,” says Eskow. “We all knew the enemy and were united in our intent.” Erich Fromm wrote that authoritarians seek escape from freedom by submerging themselves in a group or cause. At least some of our current crop of righties have adopted the conceit that they are all soldiers in a great war; their service (bloviating?) is just as vital to the cause as that of uniformed troops under fire for their country. They’ve got the world divided up into the bright, glorious Us and the dark, depraved Them, and they are warriors on the side of Goodness. This conceit gives them the illusion of clarity of purpose. True clarity would, of course, require understanding the Middle East in all its complexities, as-it-is. But this righties cannot and will not do.

If you can put yourself in a rightie’s place for a moment (don’t stay too long), it becomes clear why they see us lefties as traitors — we’re not following the script. We’re not playing our proper role in their drama. We’re telling them that their dearly beloved fantasy life is all bullshit.

This also explains why they refuse to understand Middle Eastern people and politics. Their fantasies demand demonic (and ethnically Middle Eastern) forces united in single purpose against Us. Reality is a lot more complicated.

Over in Britain, Mark Seddon wonders why Americans are so worked up over Muslims when it wasn’t so long ago that a federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up by a home-grown terrorist.

The Oklahoma bombing was dwarfed by the September 11 outrage in New York and Washington DC – and despite the best attempts of the museum and its staff to provide both a memorial to its victims and to study terrorism – its effects and causes – the federal caravan has moved on. Though McVeigh and his supporting cast of survivalist desperadoes had the federal government and all this it stands for in their sights, the same government and much of the media seem only interested to foreign terrorists now. McVeigh, sadly, was from the extreme end of a not insubstantial group of Americans, who believe in nihilist religious sects, despise all forms of government, and believe themselves to be the real patriots who defend the American constitution.

I still think it’s a damn shame they fried McVeigh before 9/11. He didn’t live long enough to experience becoming a has-been.

In Oklahoma City I met a Republican member of the state senate who, while condemning the act that disfigured his city, wanted to explain how this home grown act of terror came about, what motivated the survivalists and why they felt aggrieved. But that was because the Oklahoma bombing came from within, rather than from without. It is difficult to imagine many American politicians, who while condemning foreign terrorists, try to understand what motivates the killers and in so doing redress some of the larger injustices those same terrorists use to feed violence thereby separating the small minority from the vast majority who seek justice through peaceful means.

Beside the fact that McVeigh was white — it’s so much easier to think of Middle Eastern terrorists as crazed, noncognitive animals. (The flip side of that, of course, is thinking of Middle Easterners as simple brown people who will greet us with flowers and gratitude when we invade them.)

Or else their strategy is not about fighting terrorism; Mark Seddon continues,

Those who advocate a “permanent war on terrorism” may deliberately, or inadvertently, be seeking to justify that old Foster Dulles fear-instilling maxim that in order to persuade a people to carry a great burden it is important to create a threat. In other words, a climate of fear suits them politically. There is of course a major threat out there, but it is neither permanent nor unassailable, and neither should it be exaggerated.

Like Olbermann said — “This country faces a new type of fascism – indeed.”

25 thoughts on “Fantasy Fascists

  1. Ledeen was on Fresh Air NPR today pretending he didn’t rah rah the Iraq war, he couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t love chalabi the poor misunderstood man who the evil CIA had turned on and he claims he made up the term years ago calling the Iranians Clerical fascists. It is funny how so many got the memo all at the same time. Do you think there is a check in the envelope with the memo or is it direct deposited in your account when you read the email? Because they all jumped into this islamofascist wagon at the same time with gusto.Saddam was Hitler and now it is Ahmadinejad. That Hitler cat has nine lives doesn’t he?

  2. I listened to Ledeen and thought that all the right wingers for as long as I can remember, back to Vietnam etc, have wanted a do over. If they didn’t win the game,( because that is what it is to them) they thought they should be given the game pieces again and get a do over so they could win and feel good about themselves. This is really about immature little children who never get their shoes dirty with a bit of Euphrates silt wanting to keep playing the game over and over- that’s why they long for WWII so they can replay the movie again and feel that good old sanctimonious feeling.
    Of course my dad who flew B24s in Europe ( and later B52’s loaded)and was the only one of his crew to survive the war ,did not like to watch those movies, he knew and my mom knew what nightmares they would envoke after he went to bed. He didn’t have any desire for his sons to go to Vietnam either. Funny how alot of vets are not the rah rah types.

  3. Pingback: The American Street » Blog Archive » Snakes Honor Pain (after they cause it with their venomous injections)

  4. Rummy is in his last throes..he’s a dead-ender. The desperation to call his critics “morally confused” shows just how weakened his position has become.. He’s scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to cast guilt for his own failings. The outcome in Iraq is out of our hands now(if it ever was), and the neocon Iraq fantasy will never come to be, no matter what names they apply to their phantom.

  5. “If you control the language, you control the debate”.
    Something the “Pugs have known and exploited for a long time.A favorite trick of course is “projection”.They thrive by accusing Dems (or others)of the very crimes they themselves are most guilty of.This Islamo-fascist”ruse is the most blatant(and unsettling) example yet.Who is the REAL threat to freedom?Who is most aligned with powerful corporate interests?Who is more jingoistic and quick to accuse others of being traitors?Who promotes the most propaganda?The fascist threat is real alright and we all,ALL of us know exactly where its coming from.Its getting late folks.

  6. Remember 9-1-02? Andy Card said “you don’t roll out new products before Sept”? Well it looks like they rolled out Islamofascism a little early this time. Remember the ” axis of evil”? A speech writer thought it sounded catchy( Frum) and so the catch phrase became policy (instead of the other way around ). Since this is the marketing administration , it looks like they are testing out the brand name( islamofascist)- Bush used it , no one objected , so they are all using it . If we had the media they have we could refute bunk phrases from being picked up and used as real policy but sadly we don’t. Media matters does a great job , but the refutation machine needs it’s own network. Thje WWII analogies , the code words, like appeasement and fascism- Here we go again. They are rolling the dice but the chips( and the chumps) are us.

  7. Pingback: The Moderate Voice

  8. Pingback: The Heretik » Blog Archive » War of the Words

  9. Caught a bit of Olberman on the drive home last night. The line I liked was that Dumbya was going to be addressing the vets today so “Don’t wear your good shoes.” On a truly positive note at least NBC has been broadcasting that Dumbya’s strategy is to again try and confuse the War in Iraq with 9/11 although they are not related. If the MSM would just do an honest job of reporting on these incompetent thugs, we could get the country headed in the right direction quickly. I thought NBC’s position was cause for optimism.

  10. Pingback: The American Street » Blog Archive » War of the Words

  11. Scott: you beat me to the politics of projection point. Anyway, you’re absolutely right.

    Another favorite bit of projection is the accusation of anti-Semitism–generally leveled by people who believe Jews are going to hell, support Israel only because of its special (sacrificial) role in Armageddon, and/or tolerate Jews mainly because it gives them an excuse to hate Muslims.

  12. See, “Islamo-Fascist” is the new “Nazi.” Is it not true that invoking Nazis in a debate about any subject effectively ends the debate? So too with Islamo-fascists. You’ve got an ambiguous enemy? Create a tangible one! If “Islamo-fascists” = Nazis, well, clearly we’ve got to go after them. Too bad they don’t actually exist.

  13. I’ll try again Maha…
    The poster appears at the bottom of the article.
    I need to work on my linking skills.

  14. IslamoFasicist is the new Nazi, but it’s even more important in its effect to destroy the real meaning of the word “fascism”, in order to rob people of the vocabulary needed to identify what’s going on in this country. It’s a sophisticated two pronged attack as it both attempts to heighten our hatred of Islamic fundamentalism while simultaneously taking the words out of our mouth to describe what’s going on at home.

    See Dave Neiwert’s classic Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism which focusses on how the right deliberately destroys language by inverting or destroying the meaning of words. This is one of the ways in which they leave us tongue-tied, stammering and disarmed, while they rush forward in pushing their agenda. It’s a linguistic blitzkrieg, that has taken us years to come to terms with. We’re only now just figuring out this framing thing, for example, per George Lakoff. The right is lightyears beyond framing.

    “IslamoFascist” sounds like a slick, artificial brand name, a neologism that just rolls off your tongue, with the right amount of sharpness and self-evident obviousness, put together with almost as much care as Toyota marketeers invented the word “Lexus” to describe their luxury division.

    Anyone who hates fascism, and who hates this kind of linguistic manipulation should be calling the righties at every turn on this bogus conflation of words. If they steal our vocabulary for what’s going on, then we can’t talk about it, and it only exists, unarticulated in individual minds. It is an effective attempt to isolate members of the opposition, and the right has been successfully doing this for decades.

  15. Damn, I dropped a closing -italics- tag. Wish you’d get the Preview feature working again.

  16. I’m not steamed, because I have stopped expecting anything better from this Administration.

    Anyone with a grasp of history knows that “fascism” entails intense nationalism and collaboration with large corporations, both of which Islamists reject.

    1)Islamists believe that the Umma, the worldwide muslim community, should be united into a single political entity – a new Caliphate…and new Muslim “Nation”. Therefore I think it is simplistic and somewhat misleading to say that Islamists reject “Nationalism”. Yes, they do not have any strong loyalty to any existing nation-state. On the otherhand, their attitude towards the “Umma” does not strike me as fundamentally different from the attitude of a “UltraNationalist” towards his chosen nation.

    I’m just an Agnostic/Atheist, so maybe I’m out of my league, but is “Nationalism” REALLY all that different from the glorification of any other abstract collective entity/idenitity? Is there really much difference between “My Nation uber-alles”, “My Race uber alles?”, and “My Religion uber alles”? Right now I think they are more alike than different.

    2) Working with Large Corporations? Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always felt that this “aspect” of Facism was much less important in defining the character of the movement than the aspects like glorification of violence and brutality towads ‘enemies’, glorification of the collective over the individual, and the desire to recreate a glorious, mythical, past. Frankly, if a movement features all of those things I don’t think “failure to work with large corporations” is a good argument against calling it Fascist.

    There ARE “problems” with the term Islamo-Fascist, but I think a lot of the criticisms of the term border on pendantic – confining themselves to point out minor techincal flaws based on very limited definitions of Fascism, while avoiding the two main questions: 1) “Do the similarities outnumber the differences”? and 2) “If Islamo-Fascist is too inaccurate, what would be a better term”?

  17. Whats the matter with the work Islamofascist, if the shoe fits wear it, Thats what these wackos are guys.
    What are yall waiting for, a nuke on your front yard?
    You simply amaze me.!!!! Maybe jimmah carta can converse with the Islamofacist moooolah coming over, the same loons that spit in his eye back during the hostage crisis, maybe jimmah can get this PEACE loving mooolah to get the maniac prez of iran to quit trying to make nukes to kill us and all the Jews. Now that would be the real reason for him to claim to Noble prize.

  18. Drewsmom fell off her rocker. Holy zanax!
    Please keep her around Maha, listening to he rant is like unwrapping a mummy, you never know what’ll pop up next…
    If I’m waiting for a nuke on the front yard, I’ll have a VERY long wait, and it won’t come from Eye-Ran.
    Besides, a debate between Dubya and Ahmadinjad would be something to behold, maybe they’d get into a bit of jello wrestling afterwards….

  19. One great irony here … at the head of the line sounding the alarm against the rising threat of fascism. Those damn Communists. Always ruining these photo ops. I wonder how long they will remain erased from the picture standing there next to Churchill shouting into the wind in the 1930’s. I can picture Rummy in his uniform in Spain now … standing next to Orwell.

Comments are closed.