Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fascism - another way to bore my readers

The other day I was involved in an argument over fascism at Democratic Underground that got quite heated (and was consequently deleted by the moderators). While I don’t want to rehash the entire argument, I do want to make a few points here on the subject of Fascism (and specifically whether there is a much validity in the phrase Islamofascism).

Many of you have been exposed to Dr. Lawrence Britt’s Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism (although he may not have received credit). This definition is often used to suggest that America is a fascist state.

In having read it in the past, I think it might be a good place to start a discussion, but it’s not very useful in and of itself. For one thing, Dr. Britt shows his hand a little too clearly; some of his characteristics do seem very much like finding something America under President Bush and Germany under Hitler have in common and declaring that a “defining characteristic” of fascism. Secondly, he’s very much focused on the fascist state; not fascist thought. Fascism is a set of ideas, but to look at it only through the prism of how a state governs is to miss other aspects of the ideology.

I largely agree with Chip Berlot’s analysis of this list (presented at the bottom of the link above).
This is a highly flawed article. It is not a very accurate picture of fascism and frankly was a ripoff from a much better article by Umberto Eco:

. . . The Britt article started with what is happening in the U.S. and then crafted a description of fascism that only highlights those points that will support the thesis. This is a logical fallacy (the false notion that things that are similar in some aspects are identical in all aspects).
He notes Roger Griffin, a historian I am also familiar with (he edited Fascism (Oxford Readers) which I own, and he wrote the introduction, from which I am ripping off for this section). Griffin describes fascism as palingenetic ultra-nationalism, palingenetic meaning rebirth. The fascist wants to recreate the state according to some mythic imagining of its past and its potential. What distinguishes the fascist from the conservative is that this past is largely mythical or romanticized. Also, of course, the fascist seeks a “rebirth,” not merely a turning back of the clock.

To return to my controversial statement, I noted that there is some ideological parallels between Fascism and Islamic Fundamentalism, and, for that matter, American Dominionism. All three movements blame modernity for weakening the state. All look back to a romanticized path for materials to build a new future (whether it is a warped version of the Founding Fathers or the Caliphate). All movements are anti-rational. These sorts of connections shouldn’t be controversial.

But they are, because when the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world talk about Islamofascism they are trying to get a very specific reaction. It’s not a rational reaction, nor is it any sort of careful analysis of what Islamic Fundamentalists or Fascists believe. Rather the Limbaughs of the world would find such analysis offensive; to understand the enemy is to risk becoming the enemy. I think Liberals should be better than that, and should be willing to understand their enemies (without sinking into maudlin and ill-thought out sympathy for such groups as Hamas or Hezbollah).

And and this should be seen as distinct from Blog-O-Fascism which has one and only characteristic. To wit; people who read my blog have to do what I say! Or "face the consequences"(tm).

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