A friend of mine and I were talking about the so-called “war on terror” the other week and how a lot of language used to describe the “enemy” in this “war” covers everyone who practices Islam (rather like saying that everyone from Oklahoma is Timothy McVeigh). He asked me what I thought of the term “Islamo-Fascism” as a way to differentiate between Muslims and groups like the Taliban.
I answered that I thought it was a misnomer, given that fascism is a largely secular ideology wherein the state is closely aligned with the corporation and that what people are trying to describe with the term is a religious fundamentalism (OK, I wasn’t quite that eloquent, but do you really want to read, “Well, see, fascism has a lot to do with corporations, you know, and...”?). Bush and the neocons, I said, probably started using “Islamo-Fascism” to associate the “war on terror” with World War II in an effort to regain support for the illegal war in Iraq.
Well, Katha Pollitt, my favorite Nation columnist, has an excellent and far more erudite assessment of the term in her latest column. Her critique of the the term as arising more from emotion than analysis is spot on, in my opinion. (If you aren’t a Nation reader, I encourage you to start reading her column---she rocks.) The language we use in talking about the mess we are in right now is critical. The right uses terms like “war on terror” and “Islamo-Fascism” to maintain control (now we could start talking a little bit about fascism) over the political debate in this country. I’m not sure how how we go about changing it, but I think shedding a little light on what the right is doing when it uses terms like "war on terror" and "Islamo-Fascism" is a good way to start.