Saturday, June 13, 2009


The word has a perfectly good, if broad, classical meaning. It was overused by the Left in the 'sixties. Now it is the Right who bend it to their purposes--partly as a deflection. "Liberal fascism," forsooth, as the far Right captures seats in the European Parliament, fascism is once again on the rise in Austria and Italy, fascist assassins are prowling the US, and the Right makes new alliances with an old and evil force.

Turning things on their head is a fine old tactic, which the Right has mastered to a fare-thee-well. One of its lasting achievements was to capture and re-deploy the phrase "politically correct." Once used by Communist Party dogmatists to measure adherence to the General Line, it was used ironically in the 'sixties by the Left to mock the orthodoxy of some comrades and tendencies. Then Dinesh D'Souza and the Dartmouth Review got hold of it in 1986, and the rest is history. (More on the reprehensible D'Souza here.)

"Fascism" is now, as noted, undergoing its own transformation, to the degree that the correct usage of it is met with incomprehension. (If you can't call a neo-Nazi a "fascist," then the term has become merely a floating signifier.) Currently, it is deployed by the Right in scattershot fashion merely to attack the people and ideas with which it disagrees. A couple of examples should suffice:
  • Nick Packwood (Ghost of a Flea) has indicated what appears to me to be a fascistic taste for physical violence, but he objects to the label. He'd rather apply it to--of all people--Abousfian Abdelrazik. Not only does he seem to relish the idea of kicking a victim when he's down, but, such is his evident dislike for brown Muslims, he is willing to override the findings of CSIS and the RCMP to brand Abdelrazik as guilty--of something. Must be, or he wouldn't be on that no-fly list.

    I don't know what Packwood's politics are in pectore, but it's worth pointing out that this unquestioning assumption of the guilt of the Other was one of the historical drivers of fascism.

  • Well, let's stay with the Flea for awhile. In a post just this morning, he refers to Human Rights Commissions as fascist. That's already a worn-out meme, but in this case it was applied after CHRC head Jennifer Lynch declined to appear on a CTV program with the mendacious Ezra Levant. She sent a minion instead, and only on condition that the latter didn't have to speak with Levant. Over to Packwood: "We will watch this sickening spectacle - a commissar sneering at an uppity Jew who has thus far escaped the government's net - and recognize it for what it is: Canada's soft fascism at work." [his emphasis]
I guess that makes me a "fascist" too. In a previous life I was a trade union leader, and I had not a few public appearances, some in the form of panel discussions, even one with a soft-spoken representative of the Fraser Institute. I think I would have demurred, though, at invitations to sit with someone who had previously made wide and spectacularly false anti-union claims in the purest of bad faith, blatantly lied about me and my work, and shown himself, frankly, not to be a foeman worthy of my steel.

Lest anyone think I am being too hard on my friend Ezra, check out his claims about BC human rights tribunal members here, and be sure to read the actual decisions. And have a look at the decision in the "hand-washing case" that he and his followers have insisted on misconstruing. From deliberate and self-serving misreading of human rights cases to bizarre attacks that had even the quiet academic Richard Moon gasping for air, this is not someone with whom one holds a serious public conversation.

Lynch was right on the money not to set herself up for more frothing attacks and egregious misrepresentations. Meanwhile, the recent outbreak of murderous fascist violence in the US has been embarrassing for the Right--so much so that conservatives are inventing almost hallucinogenic fantasies as they try to wriggle their way clear.

"The bitch is in heat again," so the prescient Bertold Brecht put it. Don't look for it in progressive ranks, though. You'll find that particular rabid dog, as always, in a conservative kennel near you.

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