The other f-bomb

THE OTHER F-BOMB…. Just two months after the inauguration, so many conservatives throw around “fascism” and “fascist” to describe the White House, I already feel more or less desensitized. After seeing David Henderson join the club, Megan McArdle suggests it’s time for a moratorium.

All this does is drag the specter of Hitler into the conversation. And the problem with Hitler was not his industrial policy — I mean, okay, fine, Hitler’s industrial policy bad, right, but I could forgive him for that, you know? The thing that really bothers me about Hitler was the genocide. And I’m about as sure as I can be that Obama has no plans to round up millions of people, put them in camps, and find various creative ways to torture them to death.

If he does, look, I take it all back. Use the F-word freely. Hell, I’ll hide you in our spare bedroom when the state police squads come looking for you. But until then, can we stick to less inflammatory terms? Surely creative and intelligent adults can find ways to critique Obama without pointing out that Hitler was also a very effective speaker.

Oddly enough, Glenn Beck, Fox News’ deranged media personality, has been telling a national television audience that the Obama administration might be setting up secret “concentration camps” to lock up conservatives. The president, Beck believes, may be using FEMA in this conspiratorial drive towards “a totalitarian state,” so at least one prominent right-wing voice disagrees with McArdle’s assumption.

But I digress.

James Joyner raises a fair point about the nature of fascism — one need not be a fascist to be guilty of genocide, and one need not be genocidal to be a fascist. It’s probably best not to blur the historical/ideological lines.

That said, I think McArdle’s right about this larger trend having a Godwin’s Law kind of quality. For any thinking person, President Obama is obviously not a fascist. There’s nothing about his agenda that in any way resembles fascism. The term seems to have become popular with unhinged conservatives because screaming about a red scare became tiresome, and for lazy right-wing voices, there’s an attack ladder — “fascist” is one rung higher than “communist.”

There’s no reason to think conservative activists are concerned about being taken seriously, but these constant references to “fascism” are obvious conversation-enders. By casually throwing the word around, prominent conservative voices a) appear even more ridiculous than usual; and b) cheapen what fascism actually means, making it little more than an insult directed at popular leaders conservatives don’t like.