Reductio ad Fascism: MSNBC Edition

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As Reason's resident whistle-blower of those, on both left and right, who misuse the term "fascism," here is Keith Olbermann calling out a Republican for applying the term to President Obama. Fair enough. But the only problem, as the video below demonstrates, is that Olbermann himself is deeply outraged by the willy-nilly use of the term, except for when he employs it against his own political enemies.

So who called Barack Obama a fascist? Mitch McConnell? Rush Limbaugh? Bo Gritz? Well, not exactly. Olbermann flags a caller comment to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal," in which a crazy lady from Florida tells Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) that "true fascism is happening in this country today." Cantor elides the caller's outburst, commenting vaguely on his desire to "work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle" and attempts "to try to bring this president back into the mainstream." Performing a bit of slight-of-hand, Olbermann than laments that "people are suppose to take Eric Cantor seriously about finance or about fascism or about anything" when, rather than tuning in to the Obama press conference, he attended a Britney Spears concert, despite the little issue of Cantor never havin uttered the word "fascism."

It is difficult to disagree with Olbermann guest Jonathan Alter, who takes a shot at the "fundamentally unserious" arguments about fascism made by the C-SPAN caller (whom he calls a "yahoo" from "palookaville," thus making a case for those bemoaning Beltway elitism). But wait! After condemning populist demagogy and ill-considered historical analogies, the Deeply Serious Duo compare the current Republican Party to 1930s radio fascist Father Coughlin! Observe:

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  1. So who called Barack Obama a fascist?

    You mean Il Duce?

  2. No, fascist is not accurate. Not yet. Maybe the next president?

    Here’s the Webster definition:

    fas?cism

    noun
    1. A political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

    We might have “severe economic and social regimentation” soon, but I don’t know about the rest.

  3. Olbermann himself is deeply outraged by the willy-nilly use of the term, except for when he employs it against his own political enemies.

    Of course – Olbermann [Il Duce’s pet chihuahua] puts a face to the term “hypocrite”.

    By the way, Fascism is a political ideology that holds the State above the individuals.

  4. It is difficult to disagree with Olbermann guest Jonathan Alter, who takes a shot at the “fundamentally unserious” arguments about fascism made by the C-SPAN caller.

    Why is it difficult to disagree with what that person says? Clearly, he simply does not like the term because it implies Il Duce’s government is placing the interests of the State above the individuals’, but that is NOT the same as saying the caller is WRONG!

    After all, Il Duce’s government IS placing the interests of the State above the individuals’: unpopular bailouts, massive spending, increased debt, massive expansion of the money supply, massive interventions on the market . . . what MORE do you want to start calling his regime fascist???

  5. Corporatism is probably a better term for what is going on than fascism. Fascism is usually associated with racial xenophobia.

  6. Olbermann’s I’m-a-serious-guy face is comical.

  7. This is why the left is regarded as nothing but a bunch of Special Olympics retards by those who have eyes and brains. Their hypocrisy is so large, yet they can’t see one spec of it.

  8. Is flashism a word?

  9. ….a crazy lady from Florida tells Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) that “true fascism is happening in this country today.”

    But isn’t the “crazy” lady from Florida technically correct? Fascism isn’t just some jack-booted dictator parading in front of the troops, it’s when the government “allows” private ownership of the means of production, but heavily regulates them, as is currently happening with all the government “oversight” boards, financial bailouts, and political pressure.

  10. a crazy lady

    Proof, please?

  11. @Cabeza De Vaca
    Fascism did not become race oriented until Mussolini signed the race laws in 1938, under pressure from Germany.

  12. Another underwhelming offering from Moynihan.

    Lame.

  13. Jerry,

    True, what I meant was that in modern times people incorrectly associate the term fascism with rascism. Corporatism means the same thing as fascism, but won’t confuse uninformed people. In my opinion coropratism is a better term to use.

  14. Pro Lib-

    How about “a tendency toward, or actual exercise of, strong autocratic or dictatorial control?”

    Let’s see. The collection/enforcement of the income tax. There’s nothing autocratic or strong armed about that, right?

    How about the CONTINUING medical mj raids? Nothing autocratic or strong armed about that, right?

    You get the picture.

  15. Fascism is an economic system were you keep the facade of capitalism but where the control resides with the State through bureaucratic directives. The US has been a fascist state for a very long time.

  16. EJM-

    I read it then and I just reread it now. Underwhelming, itself an example of self righteous hyperbole masquerading as some kind of defender of language and reasoning. Utter rubbish.

  17. The US has been a fascist state for a very long time.

    Yep, the US had the First Fascist regime under Wilson, and then the Second Fascist Regime was ushered in by Hoover in 1930, and it has been downhill ever since.

  18. How’s this for hyperbole:

    Chavez is an autocratic dangeropus fascist.

    Ah, shoot! Moynihan beat me to it.

  19. True, what I meant was that in modern times people incorrectly associate the term fascism with rascism.

    Sort of like people incorrectly associate the term “liberalism” with New Deal progressivism. Of course I’m enough of a linguistic relativist that I’d say the true meaning of a word is whatever people understand it to mean, not what some authority claims it does.

  20. Moynihan has no standing to criticize someone else’s hypocrisy. What about Gaza, Mike?

  21. I don’t think Bush was fascist nor is Obama fascist, but put their policies together…

  22. Why waste your time watching Countdown-To-No-Ratings anyway? The only thing worse than watching Oberman pretend he understands the news is watching Oberman trying to be funny on NBC’s Sunday night football show.

  23. “Corporatism is probably a better term for what is going on than fascism. Fascism is usually associated with racial xenophobia.”

    And all the universities in America LOVE me.

  24. Of course Obama is a fascist. And so is Olbermann.

  25. Finally, an f-word you can get rebuked for using on H&R.

  26. Hey,
    I’m buried up to my ears in Barbra’s twat, but I’m still in a better place than the people of Gaza. Will you at least acknowledge that, MM?

  27. Otherwise known as Pricks & Pansies and how did someone THAT effeminate make it in the NFL.

    Where the manliest dude on the show is a nebbish Jewish guy.

  28. Proto-revolutionary rule of thumb #526: When folks say “fascist”, they generally mean “authoritarian”.

  29. And when they say “authoritarian”, they generally mean “despot”.

  30. The only thing worse than watching Oberman pretend he understands the news is watching Oberman trying to be funny on NBC’s Sunday night football show.

    He’s actually pretty good on SNF. Also, pretending that Matt Millen would make a good football commentator gives him practice for pretending Obama (the Matt Millen of the White House) is a good president.

  31. Actually, I thought Barbra was kind of hot in Meet The Fokkers.

  32. Libertymike,

    Where is all this sand in your vagina coming from?

    FH,

    I don’t know if Olbermann is a fascist, but he sure is an insufferably pompous blowhard.

  33. As a liberal I didn’t like Bush. But I always hated when my liberal buddies called him a “fascist.” Please. I didn’t like the man, but when Bush was in power I kept most of my money at the end of the day, lived in my own house, felt free to voice my opposition to him at all times, never feared a concentration camp, etc.

    And as Pro said, c’mon, the same can be said of living under Obama.

    Take a breath folks, we’re all going to get out of this OK…

  34. You’re right. There will always be someone to speak up for MNG.

  35. Sleight of hand, right?

  36. My favorite part about this thread is everyone’s different definition for the word “fascist.” Even after Pro’s dictionary definition.

    Really, like liberal, liberty, and liberation (all of the words stemming from the Latin liber, come to think of it), fascism has ceased to mean a goddamn thing. From overuse and a general ignorance concerning language on the part of the English-speaking majority (thanks, public school!), our words hold meaning with about the same shelf life as our trends in music and film. This is to say, they are essentially meaningless. Today, what fascist represents colloquially, I guess, is something close to “really evil person/party/action.” This is why it’s used so often in political hack-speak (Olbermann, etc.). Sometimes it’s tied to the military or a violation of civil rights.

    I need to stop, though. It’s Friday and I don’t want to depress myself. I’m going to go read the Onion now?

    Anyway, nice post, Moynihan.

  37. MNG-

    What irks me is the proposition, often given voice here by some very smart H&R posters, that the word fascism should only be used to describe life in the very worst of regimes and that its use to describe life elsewhere is, at best hyperbole, and at worst, lunacy.

    IOW, many folks succumb to the sophomoric reasoning of relativism. If you have not endured Mugabe, you have not endured fascism is the Moynihan mantra. Ryan Frederick? The 92 year old woman killed by the three cops in Atlanta? The impostion, collection and enforcement of the income tax? Ed and Elaine Brown? Randy Weaver? His wife’s assassination? Waco? The murder of dozens of children by the FBI at Waco? How about the sordid story of the FBI’s collusion with various Boston rackets and mobsters? John Connolly and Whitey Bulger? The innocent men who either died in prison or spent 40 years there before being released because of the said collusion? How about I could give you literally thens of thousands of individual cases of fascism at work here in the good ole unites states of socialist america?

    Lets not forget the fact that fascism also embraces empire. What nation state has been the very quintessence of empire? Adulation of the military is a fascist phenomenon. What about one nation outspending the rest of the world on the military? Only a fascist nation can outspend the rest of the world on warworks.

    No, MSG, we are fascists.

  38. I think that detracts from the power of words, Solana. We should insist that definitions be as exacting as possible, especially if we want to avoid diluting the power of a word.

    Also, you don’t want to be depressed, so you’re going to read the Onion? When I was fifteen, I thought the Onion was funny. Now all I can see in it is despair and cynicism.

  39. Solana-

    See the second definition in the same dictionary. I quoted the definition in my 7:25 pm post.

    Moynihan is using the “words no longer have any meaning” argument to shield his geo-political bias and hypocrisy.

  40. JB, LM,

    I’m not saying the words shouldn’t have meaning. I’m saying that, colloquially, they’ve lost them. Also, the dictionary definitions change over time; new definitions are added to reflect popular use, etc.

    The roots of the words, though — that’s where you’ll find a fuller understanding of their meaning. Unfortunately, we don’t learn the root languages in public schools; we (generally) learn other languages made up of the root languages.

  41. Also, you don’t want to be depressed, so you’re going to read the Onion? When I was fifteen, I thought the Onion was funny. Now all I can see in it is despair and cynicism.

    I read an article this week (or was it last?) about the new ‘Morning After’ Burrito at Taco Bell. Yes. The Onion is definitely funny.

  42. I don’t think we’re fascists quite yet. Nor even socialists (even in the neo-socialist sense). The problem is that we’re on the road to tyranny, and certain aspects of our government already appear tyrannical. Just the fact that the limits on government power seem to be rapidly disintegrating indicates where things are headed. We’ll have opened the door wide to a tyrant before the tyrant actually appears, I think.

    Forgetting for a moment about morally right and wrong, I’m deeply troubled by government attempts to manage the economy at the level it is today. I don’t doubt we’ll have an economic recovery despite government interference, but how much friction can the economy stand before it comes to a stop? The rest of the world isn’t going to slow down and wait for us to get our act together.

  43. exalts nation and often race above the individual

    Oh, there are plenty of collectivist tendencies on display in the Obama administration.

    and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader,

    Centralized and increasingly autocratic? I’ll buy that. Dictatorial leader? Meh.

    severe economic and social regimentation,

    Certainly vast swaths of the lefty lib agenda from which Obama comes are all about economic and social regimentation. Mostly, so far, he is focussing on seizing the commanding heights of the economy – banking and investment. Hard to think of a better way to lay a groundwork for regimentation than that.

    forcible suppression of opposition.

    Nope. Not yet.

  44. “exalts nation and often race above the individual”

    McCain/Bush/Obama/Rahm all agree that “service to something greater than one selves” is something critically important. They have all argued that the public should increase the sacrifice and service to the nation in particular.

    A country that continually asks people to categorize their race is and seems obsessed with breaking us up into racial catgories is also a country that places race over individual. A country that elects a guy president because he is black is a country that places race over individual.

    “and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader,”

    Cheney/Bush/Obama/Geitner?Bernanke have all made major steps in centrallizing government power. Cheney made it his career long goal with numerous public statements and early papers on the topic. The new powers being accrued by the fed and the treasury are astounding.

    “and forcible suppression of opposition.”
    According to the army times, the USA is assigning tens of thousands of new troops to confront US citizens in the case of civil unrest.

    Moynihan, we understand that we don’t have concentration camps and swastikas all over the country….however under most of the key components of facism Bush and Obama have moved us much closer….if you are powerful and evil enough to move a nation of 300 million people CLOSER to full blown facism….then I’ll reserve the right to call you a facist.

    By your standards, you wouldn’t have called Mussolini a facist until America entered WW2.

  45. We should insist that definitions be as exacting as possible, especially if we want to avoid diluting the power of a word.

    Great idea! And we can start by distinguishing “exact” from “exacting.”

  46. “exalts nation and often race”

    There is reverse discrimination and affirmative action, which is purely racist.

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