Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Brendan O'Neil on the over-use of the word "Fascist"

Words like "fascist" and Nazi" have been over-used at least since I was a student to mean anyone of whom the speaker disapproves who is a bit more right-wing than they are. Brendan O'Neil has an excellent article in the Speccie this week,

"Just because you disagree with someone, it doesn't make them a 'fascist.'"

As he rightly points out,

"The terrifying casualness with which the F-word is now flung about could be glimpsed in the Michael Sheen controversy. Achieving ‘peak luvvie’, Sheen said, in an interview with the Times, that he was cutting back on acting to fight the new ‘demagogic, fascist’ politics.

Where is this fascism?

Wales, apparently.

A Times editor summed it up: ‘The great actor Michael Sheen is quitting acting and going back to Wales to battle the rise of populism and fascism’.

So are there Blackshirts in Cardiff? Swarms of Hitler Youth in Merthyr Tydfil?

No. These people are talking about Brexit voters. They’re talking about those largely working-class Welsh communities that said ‘Screw you’ to the EU. In the eyes of the snootier sections of society, these people are fascists, or midwives of fascism."

He goes on to note that, as George Orwell first observed at the time of the Spanish Civil Wat, the tactic of discrediting your opponents by laballing them fascist was originated by the Stalinists.

He concludes:

"It isn’t fascism that has been revived in 2016; it’s the vicious, authoritarian tactic of using the word fascist to pathologise those who think differently or who kick against the political order.

Today’s fascist libel is driven by the same authoritarian impulse as that noted by Koestler and Orwell: it’s about saying ‘everybody who is not on our side’ is wicked and unfit for political life.

The F-word is a weapon. It’s a silencing tactic. Its aim is not to describe but to denounce. It speaks to the baleful influence of Stalinist thought on the British left that it can so naturally reach for the insult once used by Soviets to criminalise those who agitated for greater freedom in Spain, Hungary or Russia, and use it now against Brits who prefer national democracy over EU illiberalism.

Oh, the irony: in promiscuously using the 20th-century term ‘fascist’ against their enemies, they demonstrate their own similarity to another nasty 20th-century creed: Stalinism."

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