Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Good advice from Kevin Drum

Gentle reader, should you ever obtain a position of high executive office in a Western country, I implore you never to use the word "Islamofascist".

The fact that Bush is using this garbage term is grounds enough for impeachment.

Update: By e-mail, the literatus politely questions my objections to the term "Islamofascism." No doubt that those crazy extremists seek a total state and lack respect for human life. So what's the problem with the term? That it is inaccurate or that it isn't nice?

Well, both. Let's start with the lack of niceness. That's not a problem to the extent that the audience consists of confirmed terrorist theocrats. We have no reason to be nice to them. They are still going to try to kill us. Calling them names probably won't do any good either, but it might make us feel better, and I like to feel better.

But the trouble is that there is a whole 'nother audience. This consists of Muslims, more or less devout, who do not have the present intention of becoming suicide bombers. The attitudes of these people form a bell curve. At one tail are the people who are thinking about going off to Pakistan to train to fight infidels, but want to finish their organic chemistry exams first. They are on the verge of taking the step, but haven't yet. At the other tail are confirmed liberal democrats, furiously opposed to extremists, but committed to their ancestral faith. In between are the mass of people who suffer from some cognitive dissonance -- they don't approve of bin Laden's methods, or necessarily want to live under a Taliban-style regime, but they wouldn't completely reject all of his rhetoric.

Any marginal shift in this bell curve matters to us. When a Muslim who disapproves of terrorism, but doesn't think it right to call the cops about strange goings-on at the mosque, becomes a person who think that calling the cops is the right thing to do, that improves airline safety. The opposite movement decreases airline safety. As a frequent flyer, the Pithlord has an interest here.

So if the folks in the middle of this massive bell curve consider it offensive to tie their religion to a disreputable European political movement of the last century, then the Pithlord is prepared to accommodate them. I'm against offending people's religious sensibilities, but if you think that's too wimpy, then just see it as a sacrifice you have to make to further the struggle. Kind of like War Bonds.

Then we get to accuracy. There is, in fact, no connection between fascism and Islamic theocratic extremism other than that they are both totalitarian and nasty. There are other totalitarian and nasty things out there -- like the Chinese government or Robert Mugabe -- and it is not a source of insight to call them fascist.

As Larison points out somewhere in his massively expanding opus of posts (wasn't he supposed to be taking a break), the comparison between the Ba'athists and European fascism has some sense to it, but Islamic extremism has completley different roots. Briefly, it is theocratic, not ultra-nationalist.


a-train said...

It's a terrible and counterproductive abuse of language. But I think we know what people mean when they use the word (something like violent authoritarian style gov't run by fundamentalist Muslims). I wonder though, is there any evidence that the "Islamofascists" intend to impose their "fascism" on the West*? My impression is that their intention is to do this in their own areas (i.e. they're more interested in removing Western influence than in influencing the West).

* another unfortunate abuse of language!

MSS said...

I could make a long list of reasons why I dislike the term, Islamofascism, and one of these days maybe I will get around to doing it.

But I do not see why the term should be insulting to ordinary Muslims.

If, in the 1930s, we described followers of Mussolini as "Italofascists" (presumably to distinguish them from fascists of other nationalities), would that be offensive to all Italians?

The point of a compound word is to identify the overlap between two separate concepts. That the people being so branded are Islamic is not in question. If they are also fascist, then the term is useful to distinguish them from everyone else who might subscribe to Islam or fascism, but not both together.

But is "Islamofascism" a form of fascism? Probably not. However, I think the evidence that it is not needs to be stronger than the observation that not all those with totalitarian outlooks (Chinese Communists, etc.) are fascists. I already knew that.

I'll have to get to work on that list I alluded to.

PithLord said...

Isn't the issue that they *do* find it offensive? Spencer Ackerman reports that practically all the moderate Muslims he spoke to in Dearborn -- many of whom no doubt voted for Bush in 2000 at least -- were appalled that Bush was using the term.

Maybe one reason they hate it is that it is now indissolubly linked with eliminationist rhetoric.

DTW 06 said...

Interesting, I just posted Crazy Extremists

These Islamic extremists have some serious anti-social issues. It is unfortunate that too many people in this world are willing adherents to rigid dogma.

It is disturbing how many willingly sacrifice their lives for someone else's objectives, all in the name of religion. Or could it be something else?

Could it be for the state and a sense of patriotism?

Could it be over land and/or other resources?

Or could the objective be to settle an old score? After all if it is always about and "eye for an eye" we will have constant war. Yes, there sure are lots of ways adherence to rigid dogma and unquestioning loyalty lead to bloodshed.

Please check out OhioDem1's How to Sell a War for more on this topic.

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