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Fascist/Not Fascist

I don’t want to belabor a point I’ve been making for years, but I just thought this was amusing. A third year law student, writing in the Harvard Law Record rightly condemns the anti-free speech idiocy at Yale, including some ugly behavior at the William F. Buckley Jr. program event. No objections there. Good for him. But Bill Barlow also offers this pithy chart:

Tactic

Fascist or Not Fascist?

Explanation

Blocking people you disagree with on Facebook

Not Fascist

Maybe a bad idea, but you’re not actively transgressing on another person’s right to speech

Calling for people to be fired for expressing their beliefs

Fascist

You are (1) calling for recriminations (2) for people expressing what they believe

Organizing a protest against an editorial you disagree with

Not Fascist

You are condemning a belief you disagree with, but not trying to punish the speaker for saying it.

Calling to defund a newspaper for publishing an editorial you disagree with

Fascist

You are (1) calling for recriminations (2) for people expressing themselves

Putting up fliers demeaning people that disagree with you

Not Fascist

Using an ad hominem attack is silly and hurtful, but does not use positions of authority to punish free speech

Spitting on people attending a meeting you disagree with

Fascist

You are (1) committing a crime against someone (2) because they exercised their free speech

Calling for a University to change its seal

Not Fascist

You are not punishing anyone for their beliefs. Not fascist in the slightest!

Tearing down fliers that you disagree with

Fascist

You are (1) committing a crime against someone’s property (2) because they exercised their free speech

Condemning people for wearing offensive Halloween costumes on Facebook

Not Fascist

You are expressing indignation at someone else’s choices, but not calling for them to be punished because of their expression.

Calling for students to be expelled for wearing offensive Halloween costumes

Fascist

You are (1) calling for recriminations (2) for people expressing themselves (even if in a hurtful, offensive way).

He goes on:

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point. Ask yourself the question: Am I calling for people to be officially sanctioned because of what they believe, or am I committing a crime against someone because of what they believe? If the answer is yes, you are probably engaging in fascist tactics.

Given the public outcry, it seems that the majority of people, including the majority of progressive liberals, believe that Yale students calling for the resignation of those professors have gone too far in punishing free speech. The problem is that no one is willing to stand up to them. If we are going to begin anywhere, we are going to begin by calling them by their rightful name.

They are fascists.

They are fascists.

They are fascists.

Now, you might think I’d celebrate someone calling a bunch of left-wing goons behaving fascistically “fascists.” And on one level, I do. These campus Jacobins are fascistic, not just in their tactics but in their style of thinking. But on another level, it still bothers me. Not because it’s unfair to the campus thugs (and, no, not because it’s unfair to fascism). What bothers me is that it’s so exonerating of Communism (and many other isms). Barlow is still using the generic understanding of fascism Orwell described nearly seven decades ago: “something not desirable.”

As a matter of historical accuracy, you could replace the word “fascist” with “Communist,” or “Leninist,” or “Stalinist,” etc. and that chart would be just as accurate. Free speech has received many, many, mortal wounds from people proudly marching under those banners. Communists have a long and storied record of getting people fired — and killed! — because they dissented from the latest politically correct orthodoxy. I applaud Barlow’s recognition of the nature of these goons and buffoons. But it’s worth recognizing that fascist behavior is not incongruous with radical left-wing behavior. Indeed, it is synonymous with it. And when you opt to call utterly typical left-wing behavior you don’t like “fascist” you are in a very real way absolving the left of crimes that stem wholly from its nature. By all means, call them fascists. But let’s not forget they are still left-wingers.

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