Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Slightly to the Right of Attila the Hun

Growing up in a liberal household, I honestly could not tell you how many times I heard the phrase used to describe somebody to be dismissed. Discounting a person's ideas, making them a non-person was as simple as reciting a magic charm. Since the subject of these dismissals was usually not Vlad the Impaler, a case could probably be made that the character of the person in question was more nuanced than the dismissal allowed. That never happened, though. The charm was cast, the demon vanquished, and the world was restored to a glorious black and white certainty of us versus the fascists.

Roger L. Simon, an interesting person who has made a long intellectual journey against a tidal change in beliefs has come to the conclusion that the primary distinction in international politics today is in fact that simple: pro-fascist versus anti-fascist. What distinguishes his current insight is where he draws those lines. He claims that people in support, for whatever reason, of fascist regimes in Syria, Iran, Palestine, North Korea, or elsewhere are pro-fascist. People opposed to the continuing of totalitarian dictatorships are anti-fascist.

There is some concern amongst his readers that he should not be using the word fascist so often. They claim that it cheapens the word and reduces its impact. I understand that concern, the need to keep the word up on a high shelf and use it only sparingly to preserve its power. Regrettably, that semantic strategy functions only to preserve the power of the word, and does nothing to dissuade the hateful crime the word represents.

One of the things preserving the power of the word fascist on the internet has been an acceptance of Godwin's Law, which states: "if you mention Hitler or Nazis in a post, you've automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in". Although this law functioned to hold down a veneer of civility in the early days of the internet, it also functioned to suppress discussion of very real threats to human freedom. It is time to repeal Godwin's Law in our own minds and have a discourse on the very real existence of totalitarian oppression in the world today. We also need to have a very clear idea of what our belief, statements, and actions do to empower or dissuade oppressive regimes, and that cannot take place if certain words are given magical powers.

Saddam Hussein made Vlad the Impaler look like a piker. The death toll in his war against Iran made the top-five list of wars in the industrialized killing twentieth century. Hundreds of thousands of his own countrymen were brutally murdered to maintain a constant terror of his regime. It can never be known how many women were raped by the official "defilers of women's honor" employed by his security apparatus. He was more than slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. Sean Penn and many others supported Hussein's regime, openly and without coercion. Sean Penn and many others need to be confronted for this, not on the basis of left versus right or conservative versus liberal. Sean Penn and many others need to be confronted with their decision to be pro-fascist, just like Lindbergh was.
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