Ugh, Fascism

Dear Reader (unless of course you’re fake and have recently died in a terrible accident or from leukemia or perhaps you were one of the janitors on the Death Star. However you died, I shall dedicate this G-File to you, because winners play like their fake girlfriend just died),

Well, I’m one week in to living with quadrupeds as my only corporeal company. I’m not going to lie, things are getting weird. Yesterday, I tried to dress the Couch up like Carmen Miranda. He doesn’t have the hips for it (“Words hurt, Jonah.” – The Couch).

I’m not going to get into the gorier details, but suffice it to say I’m glad Cosmo is a loyal enough wing-dog not to be giving any interviews anytime soon (besides, he prefers to do the interviewing).

Hooah!

Speaking of total non sequiturs, as you might imagine I’ve been watching a bit of TV lately. Unfortunately, I think I’ve now seen everything on TV, so I spend a lot of time grazing across the digital veldt looking for the least objectionable programming so I won’t have to shoot the TV Elvis style. So anyway, I caught the end of Rocky II the other day and noticed something extremely interesting – as long as you have a very expansive definition of interesting. As you know, in the movie Sylvester Stallone plays a theater critic who meets his old friend for dinner and they share their insights about life. Oh wait that’s My Dinner with Andre. Common mistake.

Anyway, Micky trains Rocky to fight right-handed so he can surprise Apollo Creed. I started paying attention just before the 15th round, when Micky tells him you’ve got to switch to southpaw. Rocky says, in that pitch-perfect Etonian accent of his: “No tricks. I’m not gonna do no tricks.” Or something like that. It’s this great moment of integrity. Except, as best I could tell, he fights southpaw for the whole round. Now, it’s a little hard for me to say for sure, because Micky clearly taught Rocky a fairly novel fighting style whose defining characteristic is that the boxer squares up his body to his opponent and uses his head to block as many punches as possible. But I’d say something like 70 to 90 percent of the punches Rocky throws in the final round are lefty. Boom. That’s a knowledge bomb going off right in your lap!

And then I caught the end of Scent of a Woman, the first movie Al Pacino made after he graduated from overacting school. I know a lot of people love the scene where Pacino gives his big stemwinder. And it is an impressive rant. But there’s a part that always bothered me because it was so clearly ad-libbed and a product of Pacino being so impressed with himself. After he lays down his rhetorical carpet bombing, the audience applauds enthusiastically, and the headmaster asks the students to quiet down. Pacino says, “Nothing can shut them up, sir!” The youth, rapturous in their righteous indignation will not be silenced! Pacino seems to be saying.

The only problem: About two seconds later, the audience politely shuts up.

It’s a great “never mind” moment.

Ugh, Fascism

Speaking of “never mind,” John Mackey got himself into a mess. As you may have heard, John Mackey said that Obamacare is more like fascism than socialism:

Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it, and that’s what’s happening with our health-care programs and these reforms.

This apparently sparked an enormous backlash and the next day he back-peddled like one of those unicycle-riding bears in Russian circuses who is horribly abused by his vodka-soaked handler.*

I made a bad choice of language. I was trying to distinguish it between socialism so I took the dictionary definition of fascism, which is when the means of production are still owned privately but the government controls it – that’s a type of fascism. However, I realize that that word has so much baggage associated with it from World War II, with Germany, with Italy and Spain, that’s a very provocative word, so I regret using it. What I do believe in is free-enterprise capitalism, and I’d like to see our health-care system really unleash the power of free-enterprise capitalism to create innovation and health-care progress. I don’t think we have that — I think we’re moving away from that. So I do regret using that word, I won’t be using it in the future.

None of this surprises me. But it’s still quite amazing. The simple fact is that fascism is a uniquely radioactive political term and the Left has an exclusive license to use it. Liberals are allowed to be as glib and cavalier as they want about the use of the word. But if conservatives use it – entirely accurately – it is an outrage and a sign of ignorance. Yes, technically, it would have been more accurate, and certainly less controversial, if Mackey had said Obamacare is corporatist – the economic structure of fascism – but very few people know what “corporatist” means.

And so you have this carve out for liberals. They get to use the word fascist – incorrectly – all of the time. But if a conservative (or in this case a libertarian) uses it accurately, and not particularly pejoratively either, it’s offensive or stupid.

Here’s Matt Yglesias taking what he seems to think is the sophisticated high road on Mackey:

Indeed. To many of us, the objectionable quality of fascism had to do with the elimination of political democracy, violent suppression of political dissent, decision to plunge the world into war, and massive genocide. But it is true that fascist governments also favored regulation of private businesses to advance certain public policy goals. Adolf Hitler was also known for his use of expansionary fiscal and monetary policy to revive the depressed German economy, so in a sense you could say Eric Rosengren is the real fascist around these parts. It’s all a question of perspective.

On the surface this seems pretty reasonable, if a bit oily. It is certainly true that we associate those things with fascism. Though, without getting too deep in the weeds, this association isn’t entirely fair. The qualities Yglesias lays out certainly apply to Hitlerism, but not so much to Italian Fascism which simply was not genocidal. Moreover, the degree to which Hitler and the leading Nazis actually considered themselves “fascist” is very, very, debatable. If only there was a book you could buy that would go into this more in depth.

But there are two bigger problems here. First, if this is the rule, if we can only use the word “fascist” when describing something that is genocidal, dictatorial, and all that, then liberals are going to have to head to Costco and buy a couple of pallets of soap to wash their mouths out. Because, they use the f-word to describe non-dictatorial and genocidal actions taken by conservatives all of the time. And yet, you’ll look long and hard to find any outrage on the left about it. That’s because liberals have the exclusive license to use and abuse the term as much as they want.

And there’s an even more annoying double standard. You know what other system has a serious track record with the “elimination of political democracy, violent suppression of political dissent, decision to plunge the world into war, and massive genocide”? Hmm, let me think. Oh, that’s right: socialism. Far more people were slaughtered in the name of socialism than in the name of fascism. But “socialist” carries none of that baggage for most Americans, pretty much all liberals, and the mainstream media.

One reason for this, of course, is that there are many socialist countries that are also fairly decent democracies. But the extent to which they are free and decent countries depends heavily on a single fact: They aren’t purely socialist. Socialism taken to its purest form must see its own people as things and their individual desires – when not molded by the state – as either irrelevant or dangerous. As Chesterton says somewhere, the Socialist thinks a walking stick and an umbrella are the same thing because they both fit in an umbrella stand.

In other words, the closer you get to real socialism, the closer you get to a country that must suppress dissent and will likely do many other horrible things (including starting wars to “export the revolution” while really distracting and then plundering the people) in order to keep the rulers in power and to conceal the impossibility of pure socialism. So, even though socialism is, in its purest form, truly evil, it has no such connotation (except among alleged crazies like you and me).

So here’s what happens. Mackey or some other non-liberal is asked if X is socialist. He has two choices. He can say, “yes, it is” and then be rightly lambasted for being inaccurate. Or, he can say “well, actually X is more typical of fascism.” And then suddenly liberal bowels start stewing. Fascist!?!?! Whaaaa? How dare you!?

It’s a no-win situation.

As I’ve said many times, one of my ambitions for Liberal Fascism wasn’t to make it acceptable to call liberals fascists the same way they call conservatives fascists. It was to help get the word fascist out of our conversations as much as possible. I failed utterly in that regard.

*Yes, I know that’s a grim and clunky analogy. Can’t help the clunky part, but the good news is that in the full version of that analogy, the bear turns on his master, eats his liver, gets a little tipsy from all the booze in it, and then runs off to live happily in the woods.

Come On Down!

Folks, I never exaggerate, but specially-trained weasels will sneak into your home and eat your toes if you choose not to attend the National Review Institute Summit on the Future of Conservatism. And don’t bother trying to catch the weasels. They’ll just weasel out of it. It’s what they do.

Anyway, as you no doubt have noticed from the wallpaper and ads all over NRO, not to mention the scuttlebutt down at the shoe-shine stand and at the track, NRI is calling in the tribes. The last one of these things was a blast. It was also the first time Mark Steyn, Rob Long, and the author of this “news”letter did our schtick. We’re getting that band back together as well.

The hope is that we’ll help kickstart the conversation on the right about all that went wrong. There will be debates, panels, and, if I have my way, a human pyramid made exclusively from the 2016 potential frontrunners. If we got the NR logo behind it, we’d have free advertising for years. My idea of breaking a pool cue in half and throwing it on stage with Lowry saying “we’re gonna have tryouts” was nixed for insurance reasons.

Seriously, I hope you can make it. If we all try our hardest, maybe we will finally be able to get Warner Bros. to take down the website for Space Jam.

Various & Sundry

Which of course brings me to Various & Sundry.

Before we get to the stuff you want, here’s my column and a follow-up I wrote on the Corner on the whole socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative thing.

Here’s a picture of that Te’o guy with his girlfriend.

On the theology of Angel.

Best dog adoption ad I’ve seen in a while,

Six stupid things that only happen in food commercials.

You’ve seen the Scientology-sponsored ad in The Atlantic, but have you seen the Taliban’s latest?

If your coworker yells, “I knew it!” after reading this headline, well, hmmm.

And, last, let me just once again offer my condolences to Rich Lowry on the passing of his Dad. It’s a terrible club we all end up joining. And it sucks.

 

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