It’s become part of our lexicon: islamo-fascism. We hear the term used everywhere in the political sphere by Right Wing radio talkers, cable news pundits and even our President. It’s a term that’s been useful for drumming up blind patriotism, religious intolerance, the War on Terror, and all kinds of blatant fear-mongering, bigotry and cultural conflict. But as it is for many of the handy pieces of rhetoric used by conservatives, it’s also an ironically-shaped, deceitful misnomer. For those that use the term, it basically displays a complete ignorance about the meaning of the words involved.

In other words, for anyone who knows the origins of the term, ‘fascism’, they know that it doesn’t have much to do with what Islamic terrorist groups are preaching. In fact, the term much more closely resembles the philosophy of the conservative movement and the principles being applied by the Bush-Cheney-Rove Administration than it does with religious-inspired terrorism. The use of the term, therefore, is either hilariously ironic or otherwise frightfully ignorant.

Let’s begin with my 1983 American Heritage Dictionary’s entry on ‘fascism’: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.

In fact, the term was first coined and extolled by dictator Benito Mussolini and neo-Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, from the Italian, fascio, which essentially translates as a ‘bundle’ or ‘union’. The term was therefore utilized to reference a unification of the state with corporate interests; to eliminate the notion of individual and local liberties and to reinforce a governmental stronghold. Fascism was plainly designed to be a political system diametrically opposed to democracy. Mussolini was not shy from stating this directly:

Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century.

Here are some basic symptoms of a fascist/corporatist state:

Fervent nationalism/patriotism: thus the irony of drumming up patriotism with a term like islamo-fascism.
Government agencies run like businesses: privatization and corporate control of our public programs.
Monopolies: large subsidies favoring particular corporations, numbing out competition
Large corporations successfully lobbying Governments: lobbyists freely roam the halls of Congress and usually write our legislation themselves.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer: tax cuts to the rich, under the mythical banner of the repeated failings of ‘trickle-down economics’.
Favours given to campaign contributors: John McCain’s recent support of offshore drilling has been sharply correlated to a fourfold increase in campaign contributions from Big Oil.

Let’s face it, the marriage of big business to the government, the mantra of ‘privatizing’ our government, a call for American patriotism in the face of an unjust war (and the demonization of ‘liberalism’, another fascist strategy): these are all talking points straight from both the conservative playbook, and Mussolini’s. Don’t believe me? Several of John McCain’s top economic and campaign advisors are former lobbyists for the Oil and Pharmaceutical companies. Ed Gillespie, former RNC chairman, was a lobbyist for Enron. The also ironically titled Patriot Act, which does nothing more than strip away the civil liberties that the real patriots which founded our nation fought and died for, undermines our constitution and is one of many ploys to give excessive power to the Executive Branch. There’s the conservative attack on Habeas Corpus. The list goes on and on.

On the political spectrum, these are all traits and trends which steer toward text-book fascism, and which directly oppose and steer away from democracy. Our nation was built to be a representative democracy. If there is anything which is blatantly un-American, it is the fascist-oriented bent of the conservative, right-wing movement. There’s nothing American about conservative thought whatsoever. How, then, do conservative talkers, right wing pundits and the Republican Party get away with making claims about what is or what isn’t truly American or patriotic? Unfortunately, it’s probably because the American people themselves have forgotten what it is that makes them truly American.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned in an April 29th, 1938 message to Congress:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

Saying all of this is not to excuse the vile tactics and political motives of radical religious terrorists, whether they be inspired through the warped fury of Islam, or any other religious fervor. But if we are going to reserve the term, ‘fascism’, to describe anything, it certainly seems to apply far better to the current Bush administration’s policies and the un-American conservative think-tanks which are slowly but surely stripping away our democracy and replacing it with a totalitarian corporatism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Mussolini. Thus, when you hear those conservative pundits or cable news anchors warning about the ‘islamo-fascist’ threats to our nation, be careful not to react by becoming devoted to the wrong banner in response.

Advertisements