Georgetown University home page Search: Full text search Site Index: Find a web site by name or keyword Site Map: Overview of main pages Directory: Find a person; contact us About this site: Copyright, disclaimer, policies, terms of use Georgetown University home page Home page for prospective students Home page for current students Home page for alumni and alumnae Home page for family and friends Home page for faculty and staff Georgetown University Search: Full text search Site Index: Find a web site by name or keyword Site Map: Overview of main pages Directory: Find a person; contact us About this site: Copyright, disclaimer, policies, terms of use
Navigation bar Navigation bar
spacer spacer spacer spacer
border
spacer spacer spacer
border
spacer spacer
Geoffrey K. Pullum on "Islamic Fascists"
Aug-13-06 08:03 pm
A previous post discussed Bush Administration's recent use of the term "Islamic fascists."  At the end of the post, I noted that I would be interested in hearing how other commentators view this term. Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum over at Language Log posts the following response:
I will not indulge in political analysis, but I have just one remark about the lexical semantics as I understand it.

Arend may be right that the Bush administration is seeking a connection to the politics of the 1940s to make its conception of the present anti-terrorism struggle as a war just like the 1939-1945 world war against the Axis powers. But it does not strike me as by any means inappropriate for the neoconservatives to use the term fascism in this context.

The word stereotypically connotes a combination of complete control of all institutions by a highly militarized authoritarian state headed by a charismatic leader. It is used for political systems that are radical, totalitarian, corporatist, and chauvinist. It is quintessentially opposed to liberalism — not liberalism in the (now much more common) sense that Geoff Nunberg's latest book talks about, where it is a kind of Republican term of abuse, but the older and more technical sense: individual rights, free-market economics, and a minimum of control by authorities of how people should live, worship, trade, interact, or express themselves.

"Fascism" is not a bad term to pick for the kind of nightmare that would probably result if a global Islamic caliphate were to be established by the sort of Waziristan cave denizens who issue taped messages encouraging disaffected young Pakistanis in Britain to go out and blow themselves and a few hundred passengers to pieces on a train or a plane to glorify Allah. (Yes, I despise this corrupt cult of mass slaughter and theocratic bigotry. Did you think I would be all latte-sipping gooey-relativist about it?) The opposition to individual rights, free markets, choice in lifestyle, tolerance in religion, and expression of dissent of the jihadists is plangent.

So it may indeed be true that right now the Bush administration has a desire to forge a rhetorical connection to the struggle of the Allies against Mussolini and Hitler; but independently of any such desire, the term "Islamic fascism" seems to me perfectly reasonable one to use when characterizing the movement in question.

Tags: terrorism

About the editor:

Anthony Clark Arend

Professor

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.

» Contact the editor



» Learn more about the M.A. in International Law and Government at Georgetown University.


spacer spacer
Navigation bar Navigation bar