Just because you disagree with someone, it doesn’t make them a ‘fascist’, by Brendan O’Neill.
The worst thing about 2016 — an otherwise bracing year of political upset and oligarchical tears — has been the mainstreaming of the insult ‘fascist’. Anyone who sticks it to the status quo, whether by rejecting the EU or plumbing for Trump over Clinton, risks being smeared with the F-word.
Even the normally measured New York Times flirted with the idea that loads of Americans and Europeans might be fascists, or at least facilitators of fascism. Trump’s victory speaks to a possible ‘revival of fascism’, it said, echoing the fears of an army of observers and tweeters who see in Brexit and Trump the stirrings of a kind of Nazism.
The PC crew always need new words to distinguish “good” from “bad” (as they see it) and to berate non-PC people, because the words rapidly wear out and lose their power. Don’t take them literally. The PC use them to manipulate you, rather than because they are appropriate or accurate. Eventually we cotton on, and they need a new word…
And they seem not to realise whose footsteps they’re following in. For ‘fascist’ has long been the favoured slur of the authoritarian, especially Stalinist authoritarians. Some of the nastiest political people in recent history used the accusation of ‘fascism’ to stigmatise and silence their critics, and now so-called liberals play the same low game.
The fascist slur was a central part of the Stalinist propaganda armoury. Arthur Koestler [said] one of the main ways Stalinists kept people in line was by deploying the fascist tag…:
“In Party parlance, everybody who was not on our side was a Fascist. The Socialists were Social-Fasicts, the Catholics were Clerical-Fascists, the Trotskysits were Trotsky-Fascists, and so on.”
Funny, today’s left swear they are not communist, oh no, nothing to do with them. Yet they have all these odd similarities…
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.