Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Fascist!"

“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far 
as it signifies 'something not desirable'"
Orwell

Brendan O'Neill on the disappearing meaning of "fascism":
...[T]he term fascist is beyond repair. It’s a dead word. It now means bastard. It’s an emotional insult, expressing a sense of powerlessness on the part of the person making it, whose belief that he faces a fascist threat grows in direct proportion to his own inability to make sense of political developments. The insult of ‘fascist’ speaks far more to the insulter’s own sensation of impotence than it does to the insulted’s actual power, or ideology, or ambition. ....

.... Orwell was worried that the word would lose its ‘last vestige of meaning’ if people insisted on applying it to everyone they disagreed with — and that has happened. The word is now used with an ahistoricism and thoughtlessness that are genuinely alarming. And among the upper echelons of society, not merely by scruffy protesters or online blowhards. ....

We seem to be witnessing the falling apart of historical categories; the unhinging of political language from reason; a profound break between historical experience and political expression. That people can openly talk about a return of the 1930s — as if that decade were some kind of free-floating thing, an attitude, rather than a specific, grounded moment in history — shows how meaningless the idea of fascism has become. ....

It is a fantasy to claim fascism has made a comeback. And it’s a revealing fantasy. When the political and media elites speak of fascism today, what they’re really expressing is fear. Fear of the primal, unpredictable mass of society. Fear of unchecked popular opinion. Fear of what they view as the authoritarian impulses of those outside their social, bureaucratic sphere. Fear of the latent fascism, as they see it, of the ordinary inhabitants of Nazi-darkened Europe or of Middle America, who apparently lack the moral and intellectual resources to resist demagoguery. As one columnist put it, today’s ‘fascistic style’ of politics is a creation not so much of wicked leaders, as of the dangerous masses. ‘Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you’, he says. ‘Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you.’ In short, not leaders but the led; not the state but the people. This, precisely, is who terrifies them. This, precisely, is what they mean when they say ‘fascism’. They mean you, me, ordinary people; people who have dared to say that they want to influence politics again after years of being frozen out. When they say fascism, they mean democracy.